Most Medical School Heads Have Ties to Drug Companies
About 60% of department heads at medical schools and teaching hospitals in the U.S. have personal financial relationships with pharmaceutical or medical device companies, according to a study published on Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
For the study -- led by Eric Campbell, a researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School -- researchers sent a survey to department heads at all 125 accredited medical schools and the 15 largest teaching hospitals in the U.S. About two-thirds of department heads responded to the survey.
According to the study, 27% of respondents said that they recently had served as paid consultants, and the same percentage said that they had served on a company scientific advisory board. In addition, about 21% of respondents who headed departments of medical specialties with close relationships to patient care said that they had served on an industry speaker bureau, the study found.
According to Campbell, the study indicated that pharmaceutical and medical device companies "are involved in every aspect of medical care." He added that the companies use their financial relationships with physicians to promote the use of products not necessarily in the best interests of patients.
Jerome Kassirer, a former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, said, "I was appalled by the results," adding, "No one knew that so many chairs of medicine and psychiatry were paid speakers. We've never had that data before."
However, Alan Goldhammer of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America said that the study did not indicate a problem with the financial relationships between the companies and the department heads and that the companies sought those physicians because of their expertise (Tanner, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/17). An abstract of the study is available online.